The House of Representatives is looking to act on the cannabis amendment bill in the hopes of finally getting the new industry up and running in the CNMI. The House Cannabis Committee, chaired by Rep. Janet U. Maratita (R-Saipan), had already approved the proposed amendments in House Bill 21-13.
In an earlier interview, Maratita said her committee is just finishing up their report before submitting it to House Speaker Blas Jonathan T. Attao (R-Saipan). “All the concerns were addressed and we fixed the amendments. So, we’re going to act on it in our next session.”
Maratita’s committee is tasked to discuss and study all matters pertaining to the new cannabis industry in the CNMI—including its effects on the community, regulations, revenue collection, and consumer protection.
Attao is looking to call a session on April 15 for the House to take up revenue-generating measures, as the government’s first quarter projection is short by 4.7 percent.
House Ways and Means Committee chair Ivan A. Blanco (R-Saipan) told Saipan Tribune last Tuesday that Gov. Ralph DLG Torres had asked them to act on H.B. 21-13, which aims to improve the CNMI’s existing cannabis law, so that it could be another source of revenues for the CNMI government.
The CNMI Cannabis Commission, once H.B. 21-13 passes and is signed into law by Torres, would finally get them officially organized to formulate the regulations that would guide the cannabis industry in the Commonwealth.
The CNMI is also closely monitoring the situation in Guam after Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero signed Bill 32, which was passed by the Guam Legislature with an 8-7 vote last week, into law yesterday that legalizes the recreational use of marijuana. Guam residents voted to allow the medicinal use of cannabis in 2014.
Attao said the result of the vote was close. “Guam has already an existing law for medicinal purposes but this is very new [recreational use]. I guess we’re going to see what’s next for them. We’re going to see what Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero decides on this legislation.”
The House unanimously voted to pass the then-Taulamwaar Sensible CNMI Cannabis Act of 2018 with only one abstention, Maratita, who now chairs the Cannabis Committee.
“Representative Maratita…brings a different perspective,” said Attao.
Sensible CNMI’s support
Local pro-cannabis group Sensible CNMI, in an email to the Saipan Tribune, said they also support Guam’s efforts to legalize recreational marijuana use as the existing prohibition had denied its residents cannabis as an effective and safe alternative in treating debilitating conditions.
“It is our hope that the leadership of Guam will continue to move to replace the ineffective and destructive cannabis prohibition policy, which has no controls over place of sale, product safety protocols, and age restrictions, and replace it with a regulation and taxation model,” said Sensible CNMI in a statement.
“By moving to allow for the personal use of cannabis by adults, Guam will be better able to protect the youth through a system of controls and regulations, as well as develop community programs with tax dollars earned through the sale of cannabis products, while providing safe and affordable access to cannabis for those that may benefit from cannabis as a medicine.”
They added that Guam’s citizens deserve a better and sensible approach to cannabis. “Regardless of how some of Guam’s citizens feel about the personal use of cannabis, it is clear that criminalizing and stigmatizing Guam’s youth and adults with arrests and convictions that stay with them for life has not worked to reduce the availability of cannabis on island. Guam’s citizens deserve an approach that better protects public health and safety.”
The non-profit group added that the enforcement of the CNMI’s current marijuana laws also had a devastating effect on Guam’s communities. “Efforts to suppress cannabis supplies and consumption on island have only served to artificially inflate the value of cannabis—“well above that of gold, by weight, pushing people toward cheaper, more dangerous drugs, such as alcohol, prescription drugs, and methamphetamine, which has become widely available.”